I'm in love with my barista.
I used to be a die-hard Starbucks fan. I even have one of their "gold" reloadable cards that earn me stars and eventually a "free" beverage. But after realizing I was spending a small fortune on coffee and being slightly abused by the staff - and not in an S&M dungeon fantasy way - I slowly backed off and left the Starbucks family. I drop by occasionally for a late afternoon pick me up but otherwise, they lost my business.
About a month or so ago, I decided to stop in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which, here in the Los Angeles area, is the "rival" coffee stop to Starbucks. CBTL is slowly growing but not at the fanatic "let's take over the coffee world" pace that Starbucks has grown. They have their own line of coffees, teas, mugs, machines, pastries, etc. and their prices pretty much equal that of Starbucks.
So like I said, I stopped in one humid hot morning for an iced Americano, which is four shots of espresso to the two at Starbucks. Anyway, I started popping in to CBTL every other morning or so and one of the baristas, Nick, quickly learned my name. He's a cute papi with a tattoo on the inside of his right forearm (I think it's a name). He's also got this cute little dusting of hair on his upper back just below his neck, a small little patch of chin hair and a slight moustache. He has one of the nicest smiles too.
But more than the fact that he's cute, it's his warm smile and his conversational "How are you Mark?" that makes me feel appreciated as a customer. I know the game of baristas and cashiers and checkstand folks: kill 'em with kindness and they'll come back. In the case of Nick, it's working. As long as this cute papi is taking my beverage order, flashing that smile, and giving me that look like he'd like to drink me...I'll keep going back.
Besides....the coffee is far superior to that other place.